Editor's note: Joyce Markwell recently finished her first road race, the Beat the Heat 5K, with her teammates in Fleet Feet's Streakers 26 session, also the last for her coach, Jen Goff. Joyce suffered a stroke in 2016, and you can click here to read about how Cone Health treated her.
Editor's note II: Want to recommend someone who should be featured in the Runners profile? Email email@example.com.
Husband, Mark, former runner at Louisville and at Kentucky; daughter, Florie, 22, a student at Washington University in St. Louis; son, Josh, 25, in graduate school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, also engaged to Kelsi Moran
Retired three years ago from VF Corp. in Greensboro; was vice president/general manager of the women's riders jeans division; has baked, volunteered at Saint Pius X Catholic Church, served on the board of Carolina Adoption Services
Why I run
"I used to walk three to five miles every day. And I did a lot of charity runs, but I walked them. I remember thinking, 'I really should learn how to run. All of these people run and I'm walking; why am I walking?' At that point I felt so confident about feeling healthy, because after five days in the hospital after the major stroke (in 2016), I walked out of the hospital myself, with a nurse, obviously, but I didn't have to have assistance. And when I really think about that, that's just miraculous. At that point, they were calling me a miracle person.
"I thought, 'I can do this. If I train right, if somebody knows how to help me, I can do this.' I have a cardiologist because in 2008, I had a mitral valve replaced. I have a bovine valve; that was the cow in me slowing me down. The doctor said, 'You are healthy. You don't have a heart problem. You can go live your life.' And he said, 'I wouldn't go crazy, but you can jog and run.' Once I got that OK, I thought, 'It's time.' ...
"I have so much to be thankful for. If there's something I want to do, I should do it and keep that as a part of the thankfulness. Because if I held back, then I'm not really giving gratitude for everything that I have to be thankful for."
My runner's high
"I can tell you where I think I experienced it, and it wasn't in the race. We went to Southern California for a family reunion for my husband's family. It was the first time I'd ever run in California, and the weather was absolutely beautiful. Sixty degrees in the morning. Full sun. Cool air. ... I remember texting my brother-in-law (Steve Mizner) saying, 'Oh, I love this weather. My cheeks feel cool, but my body feels so good.' That's where I really felt 'you can keep doing this because you're enjoying it.'"
What I'm doing when I'm not running
"I am baking. I pray every morning. I'm trying to be a good wife and a good mother. I try to volunteer where I can. And every day my goal is to do something nice for somebody. If I know somebody's in need, I always try to respond to that. We have two little Westie dogs (Maisie and Mac) that I like to walk and spend time with. ... I go to Mass once a week or more."
"Margaret Snell, Tammy Bowman and Debbie Hoover (Fleet Feet Streakers teammates). Julie Greene ran with us Huffs a few times and she started to coordinate us a little bit toward the end of our session, and she's amazing. She is just so strong and helpful."
When I run
Where I run
"Sidewalk or pavement. I don't really like the trail thing. There's always roots or things sticking up. The treadmill in the winter if it's too cold."
The toughest workout
"Hills. I talked to my brother-in-law about it because I just could not get over how I hated hills. And he said, 'Joyce, embrace the hills because if you go up, you're going to come down.' And that helped me. That sounds so silly in a way that someone had to say that to me, but it really did help me knowing that most of the hills that I went up, I was going to come back down the other side. And he always said, 'Finish the hill; don't stop before you get on the top of it.'"
"My playlist is kind of funny because I started training with the Pentatonix Christmas album. When I was training, I listened to the Pentatonix Christmas all the time. There I am in January, February, March, still listening to Christmas music, but it was so motivating to me because that's what I started with. ... And my faith is really important to me, so it's nice to hear songs that support that and also can keep you running because there's a lot of great music behind it."
"Oatmeal with a tablespoon of peanut butter in it. And I eat that like two hours before, and then I usually have a half of a protein bar before I come to run just have something in my stomach. I always try to drink lots of water. ... I found this new drink, a Body Armor drink, and it's really delicious. So I did have that for the electrolytes. ... That afternoon for lunch (before Beat the Heat), I had a sweet potato."
"The next morning, I had made sourdough bread with cranberries and walnuts in it. And I put avocado on it and some smoked salmon. That was a treat."
Brush with greatness
"People of greatness for me in my life are my family members. To me, Jen (Goff) is greatness, Julie had greatness, because they were so inspiring. ... When you are a faith-filled person and your faith is so important to you, there's this divine greatness and then there is human greatness. I don't think human greatness can ever get close to what the Good Lord above is, but there are just so many great people that you run into, just regular people, that are great people. I've seen that through running a lot, just through what people do for each other. The fact that two people came back to run in with me (at Beat the Heat) was amazing. ...
"The recovery at Cone was incredible. I was from my house into the operating room in 13 minutes. They had burst through the clot that was in my brain, and that's why I'm alive and healthy today. And those are great people. Dr. Bruce Swords is a very good friend of ours. He was the chief medical officer at the time. The most beautiful thing was he was with us, to support us. But everybody at the hospital did everything. And he really was there as our friend, not having to ask for help at the hospital. The people there know what they need to do, and they did it. ...
"Mark, because he's been through the heart valve replacement and the stroke and just carried the family through."
Training to run a 5K ...
"My brother-in-law lives in Conneaut Lake, Pa. He is a multiple Ironman runner, and he has been a really big support. He and his wife, my sister (Jocelyn Mizner) both run; they have been so supportive and positive. My 64th birthday was in November, and I decided I wanted to try to run a 5K. ...
"Last summer I started doing a program, and I hated it. I wasn't feeling like I could actually accomplish it. And I called my sister and said, 'I don't know how you can stand to run; this is awful.' She said, 'You need to talk to Steve,' who also owns two funeral homes, and I figure anybody that can deal with that business and be as happy and humorous as he is and is an athlete, I should listen to. He helped me with a program to get me started, which was much slower and just better for me for my age, for my past. And that really gave me a lot of inspiration. I enjoyed it a lot from November through May, because the weather was cooler and really enjoyable to be outside. ...
"I wanted to get to be around other people because I was doing this by myself, with my brother-in-law. ... I checked into Fleet Feet (Streakers session 26, Brennan Huff program). They were just awesome, so supportive, so helpful. They had all run before, but it had been a long time since they'd been running. ...
"Then summer hit, and the humidity and the heat. That just changed my whole physical feeling while I was running. I just felt like I was slow and sluggish. ... And it wasn't as much fun. I prefer running early in the morning, and we were running at night. ... One of the things that I've learned so far in the running community is you have to pick what works for you. And you're the only one that can make that decision because you know how you feel. I kept training at night with my friends here, and that was fine. That gave me motivation to keep going."
... and completing Beat the Heat with Streakers teammates
"They're certainly much faster than me, and they came in way ahead of me, but this is how kind they are. Two of them came back because I wasn't in yet. And they ran in with me; I thought that was so sweet. And that's the one thing about the running community I've learned is they're so positive and supportive, no matter what level you are, no matter how fast or slow you are. It's like everybody's special, if you're running, to each other. ...
"I was just happy to get there. I wasn't there to make any pace or speed or anything. I just wanted to finish; that was my only goal. And I had a little bit of a setback during the race because my vision was double, and I think it was because it was so hot. I had eaten what I was supposed to all day and I was totally hydrated, but to me it was super-hot. There was a lot of noise in a race that I had never experienced before. I had to stop for about three or four minutes to sit down, and it was great because the event staff are on bicycles and somebody came right over and said, 'Are you OK?' I said, 'I'm fine. I just need to take a break for a few minutes.' I got up, and I was fine. And I finished. I was really happy when I crossed the line. I was sort of like, 'Wow, I did it.' It doesn't really register right away. But I think I was more happy after I realized that I had finished than right at that moment because I was pretty hot. ...
"I was really very emotional before the race. I went from being really excited to being scared to not feeling great. And then I realized that it was really around being worried about the heat. Because once you've had a stroke, you always have in the back of your mind, 'What's the effect?' I felt like I had moved totally forward from worrying about that. But I think in the back of my mind, I was concerned. Would the heat give me any health problems? And it didn't; I was fine. Crossing the line made me realize that I did it and I could do it again. And I don't need to be worried about that."
What I've learned about myself from running
"It's taught me so much about myself and what to accept and what's reality. You can be successful and Type A and a lot of things. But running really puts you in your place, which is really good for me. I've really appreciated what I've learned from that. ...
"It's really great to take care of yourself. To be a healthy human being, to be given that gift when so many people suffer physically and mentally, that if I wouldn't take care of that myself, I would not feel like I was being responsible. It goes back to the gratitude of what we have and who we are because I just really believe that this is a gift to be alive and healthy when so many folks don't get to have this gift. ...
"If I have the right training, for whatever I want to do, that seems like I can't attain a goal. I can get there. It may not be as pretty as I would have thought, but I can get there. The ability to be able to do something you never thought you could do is kind of amazing. I never thought I would run. I thought, 'Why are people running, hurting their knees, their feet?' Knowing what my husband experienced. And then doing it made me realize: Now I now know why they do it. ...
"Being positive helps life so much. And runners are positive people. I haven't heard the first negative word out of any of the people's mouths that I've been around, which is amazing."
Words to the wise
"If that's what you want to do, go for it. But also keep a reality in mind so that you don't disappoint yourself. There's so much as a new runner that you don't really know, because we just haven't learned it. And you learn it along the way, which is great. But you have to be around people to support you and teach you. Because, yes, you can just put on shoes and go and run, but there's a lot more than that. ...
"I started to do barre classes, because strength training and stretching are really important. And that's hard to get just in running,. You can stretch, but the strength is really important. If your body is stronger, you could be a better runner."